Freeware lets you ditch Win98's browser








A fiery point of contention during the Microsoft Corp. antitrust trial concerned
98lite, a free utility designed to remove Microsoft Windows 98’s resource-hungry
Internet Explorer browser and replace it with the smaller Windows 95 browser.


Does the utility work?


Microsoft officials told Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson that stripping Explorer out of
the operating system was impossible because of the OS-browser integration.


The company played a videotape in which 98lite’s installation crashed Win98. The
government’s lawyers later called the videotape inaccurate, demonstrating that the
tape had apparently been edited to include footage of two different machines, and
Microsoft backed off a bit from its hard-line stance.


To find out if 98lite works, I set up an old 166-MHz Pentium PC with a fresh
installation of Win98. I ran extensive system performance tests before loading 98lite,
which was created by Australian programmer Shane Brooks. I also hit a pool of Web pages
repeatedly and measured how fast I could pull in data.


Three versions of the free 98lite utility are available for download on the Web at
www.98lite.net. One, for new machines, performs a fresh install of Win98 without any
browser. The second simply removes Internet Explorer. The third version— the one I
downloaded— replaces the Win98 browser with Win95’s.


After I unzipped the small 98lite file, I was glad to see an option that would restore
the system if I changed my mind. The utility ran quickly. After a reboot, I found only the
older Win95 Internet Explorer browser present.


I could navigate the desktop, and open files and programs just as before. Rerunning the
system performance tests showed a slight speed increase overall, about 2 percent. The
system never crashed or showed any ill effects.


When I began hitting the pool of Web sites to monitor how fast I could pull in pages,
my Internet monitoring software detected no slowdown. The Win95 browser seemed to work a
bit faster, though that might have come from Internet traffic fluctuations. I can at least
affirm it was no slower.


The Win95 browser took up almost 40M less storage space than the Win98 version. Hard
drives are cheap these days, but for old systems that’s still a fair amount of space.


I did find some disadvantages, however. Certain Microsoft software, such as the Windows
Upgrade feature, could not operate without the Win98 browser. Users will likely have
problems with Microsoft Outlook 98, which is browser-dependent. If you like to check the
Microsoft Web page for new screen savers, you also should give 98lite a pass.


Otherwise, I found no problems with the utility and no problems with my OS.


If your chip is slower than 166 MHz, the performance gains from 98lite will be greater
than mine. Users with faster PCs probably will see no difference. If you are hurting for
performance or disk space, 98lite can reduce browser bloat—if only around the edges.


About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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